MANILA � The closure of 55 Salugpungan schools in the Davao Region, which are known for exploiting, recruiting and training child warriors against the government, is part of the Whole-Nation approach in defeating local communist armed conflict.
"Child warrior recruitment in these schools exploit the innocence and vulnerability of IP children. Since the communist terrorist group has used these schools as indoctrination and recruitment facilities of children in their formative years, the DepEd's (Department of Education) action provides ample support in protecting children of indigenous communities from exploitation, said Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr., National Security Adviser, in a statement sent to the Philippine News Agency Thursday.
Esperon said the abhorrent training and use of child warriors have to be stopped.
For this reason, the closure of Salugpungan Schools supports the Whole-of-Nation objective to end communist atrocities and bring basic services to those who need it most," he added.
The DepEd in the Davao region on Sept. 20 approved the closure of 55 Salugpungan schools in the Davao Region.
The Salugpungan schools, also known as Salugpungan Ta'Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI), were ordered closed for the following violations:
* The STTICLCI failed to comply with the curriculum standards set by DepEd-11;
* It brought its students away from their homes without the consent of their parents and used them to generate funds by making them perform in various events, a violation of DepEd's Child Protection Policy;
* Teachers of the STTICLCI lacked the professional license to teach, or are not passers of the Licensure Examination for Teachers. Instead, classes of the core learning areas were conducted by learning facilitators, in violation of DepEd Order 21 series of 2014;
* The STTICLCI has been operating within the ancestral domain of tribal communities without obtaining the mandatory Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and the subsequent certification precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP);
* Some STTICLCI students do not have learner's reference numbers (LRN), a violation of the requirement of DepEd Order 26 series of 2015; and
* The STICLCI has misrepresented its enrolled data, and that the data contained in the document submitted to the DepEd do not match with the records in the DepEd learners' information system.
Esperon said it the government's mandate to take the necessary actions to protect the nation's children from recruitment into armed conflict as directed by Republic Act 11188, or the Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act.
He added that it is the DepEd's prerogative to regulate the establishment of private schools and see to it that they comply with government standards.
"We reiterate that it is within the mandate of the government, through the Department of Education, to regulate the establishment and recognition of private schools in the basic education level," he said.
Prior to its closure, the the 55 Salugpungan Schools were suspended pending investigation, and recommendation for violating DepEd standards and regulations, and more alarmingly, for training child warriors for the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army (CPP-NPA) � a listed-terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
"We assure the public that the government has taken all possible steps to ensure that the right of children to education is protected, and that due process was followed throughout the closure of the 55 Salugpungan schools in the Davao Region," Esperon said.
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones has already instructed the DepEd 11 to arrange the admission of students displaced by the suspension of the Salugpungan schools, he added.
"The Secretary herself has visited Talaingod in August this year to personally see the situation of the learners and teachers," he said, adding that DepEd has accounted for 1,000 out of 1,142 learners for School Year 2018-2019 through its Learners Information System.
Esperon said this translates to 88 percent of total learners that have been assisted by DepEd so far.
There are existing DepEd schools in areas where Salugpungan schools operate. More schools are to be opened, and existing elementary schools are to be converted into integrated schools," he added.
Numerous testimonies from former teachers and students of these schools, he said, attested to the fact that these schools are training grounds and indoctrination tools for producing child soldiers.
"As part of their indoctrination process, they are taught a different national anthem and are forced to conduct dramas about IPs being tortured. To teach them to fight against the government, they are taught how to survive during encounters, how to ambush government forces, how to use firearms, how to recruit other children in the fight against the government and how to conduct anti-government rallies," he added. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency